Cancer Risk on Red and Processed Meat

Recently the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published a news release and article in The Lancet Oncology on IARC’s panel evaluation to understand the cancer risk of red and processed meat.

Processed meat was classified as Group 1, carcinogenic to humans, and red meat was classified as Group 2A, probably carcinogenic to humans. The IARC panel committee made this designation after a meeting in Lyon, France. The complete monograph defining the full details of the report and the studies it considered will be published in 2016.

National Pork Board Chief Executive Officer Chris Hodges said the following about the IARC classification.

We have reviewed the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report and find that the panel’s conclusions on processed and red meats are not based on evidence that proves causation and therefore are highly questionable.

The primary body of evidence used by IARC is observational studies that are unable to find a cause-and-effect relationship. Complicating the relationship is that many factors are at play, including genetics, lifestyle and even how meat is prepared.

Health professionals continue to recommend including lean meats, such as pork, in a healthy diet. The average American today consumes less than half of the processed pork noted by IARC, so the conclusions are not applicable to how Americans enjoy processed pork in a healthful diet.

Cancer risk is complex and develops over many years. Any attempt to tie specific foods and cancer risk in a cause-effect relationship would be difficult at best. In fact, the studies examined by IARC did not consistently define the types of red and processed meats, which vary greatly.

Importantly, when included as part of a healthy, balanced diet, the benefits of meat (and pork, in particular) are significant. As a lean source of protein, pork provides nutrients not found in other protein sources.

We continue to work with our 63,000 pig farmers across the U.S. and through the production, retail and foodfservice chain to deliver high-quality, healthy pork to consumers worldwide.

The Pork Checkoff, as well as other commodity groups, have funded numerous objective and independent scientific studies on the nutritional value of pork and other lean meats. This research continues to indicate that lean meat should be included as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

“As consumers of our own product, we care about the health of our own families and our consumers,” said Ceci Snyder, vice president for consumer marketing for the Checkoff and registered dietitian. “Based on existing and available science, we are confident in the safety and nutritional value of the pork products available today. We and many health professionals encourage all consumers to continue to enjoy pork as a lean meat protein and as part of a healthy, balanced diet.”

For more information about the nutritional benefits of pork, to view the nutritional science and research available on pork, and to learn more about the IARC classifications please visit We will continue to share relevant information as it becomes available.

Thank you for your continued support of America’s pig farmers.